We’re continuing to swab the deck of this pesky news chum. This time, we’re making some things that might be of retirement age walk the plank. Let’s see if they sink or swim:
- The Boeing 747. One of the books I keep rereading from the early 1970s deals with the birth of the Boeing 747. After 45 years, the old lady of aviation (of the current “models” in heavy use, only the 737 is older) may be ready to retire. It’s engineering is from the past: people are astonished when they see the analogue instruments. The flight controls are all dependent on old-fashioned mechanical linkages. A 747 captain once explained that, if hydraulic assistance on the control yoke is lost, you can still put your feet on the instrument panel, give a big tug and wrench the plane about the sky. You cannot do that on a solid-state Airbus. Airline economics have also changed: International flights can now avoid the big hubs and go directly on long, thin routes between secondary cities. The first generation of high-bypass turbofans made the original 747-100 possible, but it was only ever economical when fully loaded, its efficiency tumbling disproportionately as seats were left empty. In the 45 years since its first flight, engine reliability has so dramatically improved there is no need for four thirsty engines. In any case, the fundamental appeal of the original 747 was its range rather than its capacity. Boeing’s own efficient long-range modern twinjets, the 777 and 787 have made it redundant. And the A380 makes it look crude.
- Quicken. If you are like me, you probably have years and years of data in Quicken. I think I started using it back in 1994, perhaps even a bit earlier, with a version running on MS-DOS. Well the markets have changed, and you and I are dinosaurs. All the cool kids use online money management, and Intuit (born of Quicken) has put Quicken on the market. Intuit has decided to focus on its small business and tax software, represented by QuickBooks and TurboTax, respectively — both have strong cloud- and subscription-based businesses — and is ditching Quicken because, as a strictly desktop product, it has neither. Some predict Quicken to be dead in two years. After all, the three units Intuit plans to sell — Quicken, QuickBase and Demandforce — accounted for less than 6% of the firm’s fiscal 2015 revenue, and just 2% of its net income during the same period. For the last 12 months, Quicken contributed just $51 million to the company’s total revenue of nearly $4.2 billion. They want a buyer that will keep the brand up. It will be interesting to see. I still use Quicken — and their long-retired Medical Insurance Tracking software — and it would be a pain to transition that data (and the data does not belong online).
- Vinyl Records. On the other hand, vinyl records (which were written off for dead), are seeing a comeback. The NY Times reports that the business of record pressing is now experiencing so many orders they cannot keep up (warning: autoplay video). The problem: how to capitalize on the popularity of vinyl records when the machines that make them are decades old, and often require delicate and expensive maintenance. The few dozen plants around the world that press the records have strained to keep up with the exploding demand, resulting in long delays and other production problems. It is now common for plants to take up to six months to turn around a vinyl order. Still, vinyl is a niche market, albeit a valuable one.
Music: The Slightly Fabulous Limelighters: “Aravah, Aravah” (The Limeliters )